Jimmie Johnson accomplished two milestones on Sunday.
First, Johnson tied Jeff Gordon with nine wins at Martinsville Speedway.
More importantly, the six-time champion earned a position in the Champion’s Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He will now have a shot at winning a seventh title, which is an achievement only two other drivers in the history of the sport have reached (Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr.).
“Yes, yes, yes,” Johnson screamed. “Thank you boys.”
“Dude, I am so proud of you,” replied crew chief Chad Knaus. “Great job. Great team effort.”
The Goody’s 500 was a classic example of the haves and have nots. Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas (including polesitter Martin Truex Jr.) dominated the first 408 laps by leading 340 circuits. Then it became the Jimmie Johnson show. The No. 48 car muscled past Hamlin to lead the final 92 laps for his ninth win at Martinsville and his 79th-career Cup win.
The race was slowed by five cautions — the final yellow flag waved after Chaser Carl Edwards blew a tire and wrecked in Turn 3 on Lap 357. Although Edwards returned to the track, he finished 36th, 23 circuits off the lead lap.
Moving into the lead
After what seemed like the longest caution in NASCAR history after officials figured out the line up, the race returned to green on Lap 385 with Hamlin in the lead followed by Busch, Jamie McMurray, Johnson, Kenseth and Jeff Gordon. Johnson moved into third in the first three laps, then moved into second on Lap 397. He finally worked to the inside of Hamlin and completed the pass on Lap 408.
“We really had great long run speed,” Johnson said. “That caution with the 19 car but us in the catbird seat.”
After the race, Hamlin said: “No one was going to get the 48."
With 25 laps remaining, Keselowski, who restarted eighth on Lap 387, passed Hamlin for second. Once he cleared lapped traffic, he cut Johnson’s lead to two-seconds with 10 circuits remaining. However, Johnson held off Keselowski by 1.2-seconds at the finish.
“We don’t need to run 100 laps under yellow with the field not trying to figure out where they’re at, and it probably cost us the race,” Keselowski said of the 29-lap caution.
Gordon, the defending winner of the race, finished sixth followed by Martin Truex Jr., McMurray, Joey Logano and AJ Allmendinger.
Johnson leads the Sprint Cup standings by five points over Hamlin. The Stewart-Haas Racing Chasers had a brutal outing with Kevin Harvick finishing 20th, two laps off the pace. Kurt Busch was two positions behind and three laps off of the lead circuit.
"Anything you want in life you have to work for it,” Johnson said. “It’s not going to come easy. I’ve been trying to ignore this conversation on seven (championships), now I can’t. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the belief in Lowe’s and all the employees had in me way back when when I was 10th or 15th in the Busch Series. Given this chance, Rick Hendrick, Jeff Gordon, all believed me to get to this point. It’s crazy that I have a shot at seven at this point."
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